XO, Kitty: Love and Discoveries in Seoul

XO, Kitty is a romantic comedy-drama series written by Jenny Han, that premiered May 18. on Netflix. The show is a spinoff to the movie trilogy “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” also written by Jenny Han and consists of 10 episodes each around 30 minutes long. 

Actress Anna Cathcart returns to the role of Kitty Song Covey, the youngest sister in “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before”, as she gets her own love story after years of matchmaking.

It starts with Kitty, a hopeless romantic, who is now ready for her own adventure. She convinces her father to send her to the Korean Independent School of Seoul (KISS) in Seoul, South Korea. She plans to surprise her long-distance boyfriend, Dae, played by Choi Min-young, whom she met on a family trip to South Korea. While attending KISS, Kitty also plans to connect with her departed mother. Walking the same hallways as her mother, meeting the same people she knew, and so on gives Kitty a deeper understanding of her mother’s legacy.

Kitty developed what she believed to be the perfect plan to surprise Dae at KISS’ welcome dance. However, it does not go as she expected when she misses the bus that was supposed to transfer her to KISS. The language barrier makes it even more difficult because she cannot communicate with anybody in order to get directions. She still finds a way to make it to school on time, but there was a surprise in store for her when she arrives. Her seemingly perfect boyfriend is not who he’s supposed to be as she discovers the relationship between Dae and Yuri, played by Gia Kim, at the dance.  

Kitty finds the popular and lively Yuri on his arm, but, due to the amount of timed interruptions, Dae never gets the chance to explain what is really happening, leaving their romance temporarily stalled. 

Though she is humiliated by Dae and Yuri, Kitty is still determined to explore her Korean roots and learn more about her mother’s experiences. She soon gets swept up in discovering the details of her deceased mother. 

XO, Kitty gets an in-depth look into present-day Seoul and modern-day South Korean culture. Shot in the location where the majority of the scene features Kitty and her friends at the KISS campus, there are also hints of the shining city and even breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside, including cherry blossoms and greenery. 

Kitty’s school life is a major part of the show, and adjusting to the change in language, a more difficult academic curriculum, and making new friends adds to this. The language barrier is extremely significant in her school environment. With the exception of Kitty, the characters transition between English and Korean with ease. Jenny Han showing Kitty’s struggle with this was a great choice because it’s both relatable and common amongst Asian-American youth. 

When being Asian-American, it’s typical that parts of your various cultures will conflict. Solely because of this, learning your native language can be a burdensome task. The show displays this very well. One example includes her bilingual peers constantly being able to discuss topics she does not understand or say it right in front of her, simply because she can’t comprehend the language. This alone made Kitty feel excluded, which many can likely relate to. Representation is important, and Jenny Han knows how to incorporate it into her shows through her experiences as an Asian-American.

Jenny Han’s expertise when dealing with representation and her creativity with characters can also be seen in other ways. XO, Kitty, which might first appear as a stereotypical rom-com show, differs from Jenny Han’s other work in several ways. For example, one might point out that Han typically inserts Asian-American actors as the main characters in her productions. However, her characters vary tremendously.

Characters like Lara Jean from “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” and XO, Kitty provide diverse portrayals of Asian-American girls. By showcasing different personalities, from shy and homely to outspoken and extroverted, these characters break stereotypes and inspire young girls who can see themselves in them. This helps them realize that there is no standard they need to conform to, promoting empowerment and self-acceptance within those from a similar ethnic background.

XO, Kitty is the perfect coming-of-age series, mainly because of the relevant themes it explores that are common among teens. Jenny Han has skillfully captured young love and its essence, and her past XO, Kitty’s predecessors, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” and “The Summer I Turned Pretty”, display this.